When I returned back to Jakarta after my dad's memorial service and bereavement leave, I was so full of compassion and gratitude for everyone around me. Knowing I was jumping right back into my after-school yoga class that Tuesday I wanted to pick a book that captured how I was feeling. Enter A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead. This is a gorgeous book all about the power of friendships, being kind, having compassion for those around you, and finding ways to make life a little brighter for your friends.
With my Kinder-2nd graders I don't spend a ton of time on a "class message" so to speak, but I did explain why I chose this book. That after my dad's death, so many friends from all over the world sent me cards and emails, flowers and books, healing energy and kind thoughts. The power of this compassion that was shown to me made me feel so loved, which is an amazing feeling.
A few things about this lesson plan that I really love, in addition to the message:
- The kids were really wound up at the beginning and asked for a new warm-up, rather than the sun salutations we typically do. So I introduced "Squeeze, Rock, Pop and Peel" - which I'm sure has other names as it is likely used in many types of movement classes. Sitting on the floor, we squeezed our knees to our chest and sang "squeeze the orange, squeeze squeeze the orange." Next we rocked on our back while singing "rock the potato, rock rock the potato." Then we jumped up in a star shape and sang "pop the popcorn, pop pop the popcorn." Finally we did side stretches with our arms extended and sang "peel the banana, peel peel the banana." And then we sang "go bananas, go go bananas" while the kids danced all over their mats. They LOVED this warm-up. At the end I would say (loudly) "FREEZE" them and then one would yell "BANANAS" and they would start dancing again until I said "FREEZE AND SIT!"
- The game. We played Invent-A-Pose, which tied in perfectly to the zoo animal characters from the book. I put 5 different zoo animals in a bag, and each kid drew one out. Then they had a few minutes to think of a great pose to go with that animal. After thinking it through, each student came up to the "teacher mat" and taught the rest of the class. It was really rewarding for the kids to come up and be the teacher, and they loved it. However, they definitely needed some support to get the other kids' attention and interest at times. I think I would set this up a bit differently next time, although I'm not quite sure how....
- The final savasana/meditation. This was a bit tricky as I have a few students who really respond to deep pressure and arm/leg massage during savasana. In fact, this is sometimes the only way they can lay quietly during this time. So I had to walk around and work with kids while doing the meditation. It wasn't ideal, and is something to work on for sure. The guided visual meditation took the kids on a path around a giant zoo, where they met a tiger, a turtle, and an elephant. As they neared each fence, the animals came toward the kids and bowed their heads in gratitude for the kids coming to visit. And then I had the kids envision themselves bowing or smiling back in gratitude. I incorporated many of the senses, especially sight and touch.